Retro Review: Dazzler #31-42, Marvel Graphic Novel #12, & Beauty & The Beast #1-4 By Shooter, Nocenti, Goodwin, Springer, Chadwick, Perlin & Others For Marvel Comics

Dazzler #31-42 , Marvel Graphic Novel #12, Beauty and the Beast #1-4 (March 1984-March 1986)

Written by Jim Shooter (#31, 35, Marvel Graphic Novel #12), Mike Carlin (#32-34), Ann Nocenti (Beauty and the Beast #1-4), Linda Grant (#36), Bob DeNatale (#37), Archie Goodwin (#38-42)

Co-plotted by Jim Shooter (#32)

Pencils by Frank Springer (#31, 35, Marvel Graphic Novel #12), Mark Bright (#32-33), Geoff Isherwood (#34, 36), Don Perlin (Beauty and the Beast #1-4), Tom Morgan (#37), Paul Chadwick (#38-42)

Inks by Vince Colletta (#31-35, Marvel Graphic Novel #12), Kim DeMulder (Beauty and the Beast #1-4), Mike Gustovich (#36), Danny Bulandi (#37), Jackson Guice (#38-41), Romeo Tanghal (#42)

Coloured by Ben Sean (#31), Andy Yanchus (#32-34), Petra Scotese (#35-42, Beauty and the Beast #2-4), Christie Scheele (Marvel Graphic Novel #12), George Roussos (Beauty and the Beast #1)

Spoilers (from thirty-two to thirty-four years ago)

After Danny Fingeroth left this title, it was clear that Jim Shooter had big plans for the book.  His name kept showing up as writer or co-writer, and he had plans for a graphic novel (which was rare in those days) to make big changes for the character, followed by a miniseries that dealt with the fallout of the OGN, and featured Ali partnering with The Beast, all while the regular bi-monthly series continued.

I know that Shooter created Ali’s character, more or less, and figure that’s also why he gave her a semi-prominent role in Secret Wars II, the cross-over that should never be discussed.

So the question put to us is, did Shooter’s plans lead to better comics?   Did the work he did benefit Ali as a character? Let’s find out…

Let’s look at who turned up in the title:

Villains

  • Moonstone (#32)
  • Blackout (#32)
  • Doctor Doom (Beauty and the Beast #1-4)
  • Alexander Flynn (Beauty and the Beast #1-4)
  • Hugo Longride (Beauty and the Beast #1-3)
  • Horns (Gladiator; Beauty and the Beast #2-3)
  • Tatterdemalion (#36)
  • Dust (#38-42)
  • Doctor Piper (#39)
  • Stomp (The Outriders; #40-41)
  • Chunk (The Outriders; #40, 42)
  • Mama (The Outriders; #40, 42)
  • Silence (#41-42)
  • The Mover (#41)

Guest Stars

  • Medusa (#32)
  • Lockjaw (#32)
  • Black Bolt (#32)
  • Quicksilver (#32)
  • Mister Fantastic (#32)
  • Crystal (#32)
  • Millie the Model (#34)
  • Chilie Storm (#34)
  • Storm (Marvel Graphic Novel #12)
  • Nightcrawler (Marvel Graphic Novel #12, #38)
  • The Beast (#42, Beauty and the Beast #1-4)
  • Wonder Man (Beauty and the Beast #1)
  • Wolverine (#38)
  • Colossus (#38)
  • Rogue (#38)
  • Charles Xavier (#38)
  • Cyclops (#38)
  • The Beyonder (#40)
  • Rachel Summers (#41)

Supporting Characters

  • Harry Osgoode (Alison’s manager; #31)
  • Cassandra Ferlenghetti (Harry’s secretary; #31)
  • Lancelot Steele (Alison’s stage manager; #31)
  • Janet (Ali’s friend; #32-34, 36)
  • Roman Nekobah (big recording and movie star; #33-34, Marvel Graphic Novel #12)
  • Max Rocker (Gladiator; Beauty and the Beast #1-4)
  • Kate (proprietor, Heartbreak Hotel; Beauty and the Beast #1-3)
  • Poltergeist (guest, Heartbreak Hotel; Beauty and the Beast #1-4)
  • Link (guest, Heartbreak Hotel; Beauty and the Beast #2-4)
  • Ivich (Gladiator; Beauty and the Beast #2-4)
  • OZ Chase (bounty hunter; #38-42)
  • Cerberus (OZ’s dog/wolf; #38-42)
  • Judge Carter Blaire (Alison’s father; #41)
  • Barbara London/Katherine Blaire (vocal coach; Ali’s mother; #42)

Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go:

  • Ali is in LA, watching a film shoot, where a stuntman named Bill Remington is introduced to her by his mother.  Bill is weird in his use of pickup lines, but does charm Ali, and she keeps his business card. She rents an apartment from married landlords who make a point of mentioning their hatred of mutants, and gets a job teaching dance aerobics at a fitness club.  She runs into Bill there, and he tries more weird lines on her. Later, Ali speaks to Harry Osborn, her manager, who lets her know that he’s not renewing her contract, since he can’t do much to help her career from New York. Weirdly, it feels like Ali is being repositioned as a wannabe actress more than as a singer.  Bill sends Ali flowers, and keeps hitting on her during her first dance class (which seems inappropriate). They have lunch, and he invites her to another shoot. It’s raining a lot, and the stunt goes badly, but Bill is okay. Ali is relieved to see that, and agrees to have dinner with him at her place. After dinner Bill pushes for sex, and gets annoyed when Ali just wants to talk.  He is about to walk out on her but then they decide to go for a drive in his car. They see that his entire coastal neighbourhood is evacuating, and a neighbour explains that there was an earthquake at sea, and that a tsunami is on its way. Bill takes Ali to his house anyway, and explains how he has issues with his father, and how much the house he built with his own money means to him.  He decides to stay with the house when the wave hits. Ali leaves, but then goes back for him but can’t find him. She realizes she can’t get away before the tsunami strikes, so she uses her powers to vaporize as much of it as she can, saving the house. Bill finds her (he went looking for her during the storm that wouldn’t typically accompany a tsunami) and takes her home. He explains that he realized that he has a pattern of self-destructive behaviour but promises to change.  Ali walks home.
  • Ali is teaching her dance aerobics class when Medusa and Lockjaw teleport into the middle of it, which scares away her students.  Medusa says she needs Dazzler to go to the moon with her to help with a problem, but Ali refuses, because she’s too busy on Earth.  Medusa reminds her that Black Bolt helped her stop the Absorbing Man, but she still refuses to help. They leave, by walking out. Ali goes to find her students and convinces them to return to class.  After, she goes out for coffee with one, an aspiring dancer, and they discuss all the ways that Roman Nekobah has been helping Ali (although we see no evidence of this). As they leave, Ali spies Medusa and Lockjaw walking around, and Ali agrees to go help Medusa, on the condition that she’s back by 7 AM for work.  They head to the moon, where Medusa explains that it’s not dark on the dark side of the moon, except for some weird dark patches that are approaching Attilan, which is what they need Dazzler’s help with. Ali is surprised by the appearance of the Inhumans, but sees a cute one. Inside the black cloud, we learn that it’s being made by Blackout, who is with Moonstone.  They’ve come to the moon after escaping the Avengers, and were surprised to find the moon inhabited. Blackout is providing them with cover and oxygen as they go looking for more stones like the ones that gave Moonstone her powers. Blackout is having a hard time maintaining the large area of blackness (which I don’t think they actually need), and is distracted by how cute Ali is.  Black Bolt speaks, and Ali converts his powerful voice into light, exposing the two villains. Blackout strengthens his field, and when Dazzler lights it up again, Quicksilver tries to attack the villains; Moonstone blasts him, and starts firing into Attilan. Ali stops some rubble from falling on Black Bolt, while Blackout strengthens his field again. Moonstone fires light back at Dazzler (I don’t know why), and their battle is so bright it draws the attention of Mister Fantastic on Earth, who has a short conversation with Crystal about it, offering help.  Dazzler (backed by Black Bolt) and Moonstone keep firing light at each other until Ali finally knocks Blackout out. Quicksilver grabs him before he suffocates. Moonstone keeps firing energy bolts at him until she blacks out. The Inhumans celebrate Ali’s victory, but she just wants to go home. They all speak to Reed Richards, who arranges for the villains to be taken back to Project Pegasus; Ali and Lockjaw teleport away with them. Ali gets home and goes to bed, but it’s somehow 8:44 in the morning, and her alarm goes off at 8:45 (although earlier she said she had work at 7).  She is a little late for work and her boss is mad at her (the timing is way off in this issue – there’s no way she was on the Moon for twelve hours, and it was around noon when she left).
  • The Statement of Ownership for 1983 lists Dazzler as having an average press run of 281 000, with average newsstand returns of 141 000.
  • I’m guessing that Thriller must have come out a little while before Dazzler #33, as the awesome Bill Sienkiewicz cover pays homage to it.  Ali and her new friend Janet are watching a horror movie together (Maniac, starring Vincent Price), but Ali gets too scared and has to leave.  Janet leaves with her, and they talk for a bit on the street before separating and going home. When Ali gets back to her apartment, which looks nothing like the one we saw her rent two issues ago, she receives a call from Roman Nekobah, who is now no longer a Tom Jones knock-off actor and singer, but is instead Ali’s manager, with no explanation.  He has Ali meet him so they can go to a big Hollywood party, where he steers her clear of a sleazy actor, and introduces her to Bob Benson, a big Hollywood director (whose film Ali has just walked out of). He wants Ali to be in a music video he’s shooting. Roman feels that working for Benson is risky. Just then, there is an explosion outside of the party, and we see that Benson’s car is on fire.  Ali finds him lying in the bushes and brings him to everyone just as his car blows up. Roman and Ali take him home. The next day, Ali decides to take the job, and calls Benson after she finishes work. She goes out to a studio to visit him, and he hires her on the spot. The next day, she comes for the video shoot. She’s made up to look like a zombie and taught some dance moves. Teddy Lingard, the star, arrives, and he looks an awful lot like Michael Jackson.  Ali heads to the bathroom and overhears Benson on the phone calling in a news tip that an accident has happened at the video shoot. To prepare for the video, Ali and the other background dancers are buried alive in a fake graveyard, which freaks Ali out a bit. When they start filming, the other extras dig their way out of their graves, but Ali does not emerge. Benson starts freaking out when he sees that there is no air hose for her. The news crew arrives, as Ali uses her powers to blast a small hole (how much sound is there in a grave I wonder), and she scares Benson.  She starts to follow him, and he thinks she’s a real zombie, so he confesses that he has been sabotaging his shoots and blew up his own car, in front of the news camera. Ali claims that her acrobatic breathing techniques kept her alive, and the police arrest Benson. Ali says goodbye to Michael Jackson. This marks the third straight issue where no mention is made of Ali being a singer or recording artist; you would think that when meeting Michael Jackson (I mean Teddy Lindgard), something like that would come up.
  • On a LA fashion runway, a model disappears, leaving just her dress behind.  Ali’s friend Janet tells her that she won’t be coming to her class anymore because she just got a modeling job, with Millie’s Models, a reference to a very old pre-Marvel character.  Ali thinks about modelling as well, and goes home to shoot some photos of herself. Luckily she had developer and other darkroom equipment in her bathroom. She mails the photos to Millie, who four days later, is impressed enough with them to want to meet her right away, which means that her assistant sends her a letter.  Ali runs into Roman Nekobah on the street, and he returns to being a famous actor and singer who is just trying to help Ali start her career as a way of getting into her pants. Ali gets the letter from Millie, and a week later goes to meet her. She mistakes another woman for her at first; the other woman is Chilie Storm, Millie’s rival from back in the day, who keeps trying to get work with Millie, and keeps getting rejected.  As Chilie leaves, she references the models who have been vanishing, apparently so it looks like she might be involved. Ali signs with the agency, and later talks to Janet about how they are going to be in the same fashion show. Backstage a few days later, Ali and Janet meet the designer they are working for, Doug Scruggs, and see that Chilie is at the show. Ali finds a business card for something called Revenge Inc. and suspects that Chilie is up to something.  While the show is on, models start vanishing out of their clothes; as the cops run around, Ali confronts Chilie, and because they are touching, they both disappear too. The women all find themselves in a cell, and they are all wearing different clothes, some of which are made with polyester. Some guy named Tom Devine explains to them that he felt he should be a famous designer, so he got Revenge Inc. to help him – now he’s going to use these models to show off his designs.  It’s not explained why he couldn’t just use the money he paid Revenge Inc. to hire models himself, but whatever. Ali uses her powers to open the cell door while pretending to saw it open with a nail file, and all the women attack Devine and his workers. Chilie punches Devine out. The next day, Ali quits the modelling business, and suggests that Millie hire Chilie instead. She sees Roman again, and tells him to go away. She is left wondering why she can’t be left alone. This issue does make reference to Ali’s hit song, so there is that.
  • Back when Marvel numbered their graphic novels like they were part of one series, #12 was called Dazzler: The Movie.  In it, Jim Shooter and Frank Springer told a 71 page story of Ali’s Hollywood dreams, and changed her life. It opens with Ali teaching her dance exercise class, and attracting the attention of Eric Beale, a movie producer.  He wants to take Ali out, but she blows him off. Later, she is working out and talking to a nice guy when Beale turns up with her boss; he bought the gym as a way of circumventing its policy of not allowing employees to date customers; Ali still blows him off and goes out with the nice guy.  She hangs out at home talking to herself, and gets a phone call from Storm warning her about growing anti-mutant sentiment. As usual, Ali insists on her independence and gets ready for a club appearance. Roman Nekobah, back to being portrayed the way he was when we first met him, decides to pursue Ali again, as she is the only girl who has ever turned him down.  She has good show, but Beale, who is in the audience, is suspicious of her lightshow. The paparazzi bother her with questions about her relationship to Nekobah, and if it’s true that they are going to be in a movie together. When she gets home, she finds him in her apartment, where he comes on very strong. She finally kicks him out. The next morning, as she goes off job-hunting, he follows her in his car, flirting and being persistent as usual.  She blows out his tires, and he starts to chase her, and then fakes a heart-attack to get her to come talk to him. Somehow this works, and they go out for coffee. He takes her shopping, and she begins to change her opinion of him. He also convinces her to work with him. He doesn’t tell her that Beale is his financier for the film. They throw a party, but Ali instead goes to the bedroom with Roman. Just as they are about to do something together, she claims she can’t.  He asks if it’s because she’s a mutant, and so she “comes out” to him, and he is supportive. The panel that just shows a closed bedroom door speaks for itself. The two get closer, and spend weeks travelling and partying together (despite the fact that Roman is more or less broke). Finally, Ali realizes how much she is changing – smoking, putting on weight, and not being true to herself. At this moment, Roman shows her that she’s been outed in the papers, and claims it was his idea to promote their movie.  She’s not as upset as you would think she should be. They hold a press conference at LAX, where jets are used to charge Ali with sound in front of a massive crowd. Her light display is massive, but is met with fear from the audience. Later a small mob throws bricks at Ali and Roman. She decides that her film must be used to promote understanding of mutants, and starts working out again. As protests and complaints grow, she continues to work on the film, which shows her saving people and apparently having sex with Roman, who is also the focus of a lot of protests.  When they watch a screening of their movie, he says it’s excellent, but a mob breaks into the studio and chases them away. They separate, but then Ali is called by Roman and told to meet at an office. It turns out to be Beale’s office, and when Ali arrives, he explains that he has sent Roman out of the country, and that he was behind outing her. He also claims he’s destroyed all copies of their film but one, and wants Ali to basically sign her life over to him to ensure it gets shown. She refuses to do as he wishes, and burns up her and Roman’s contracts, and destroys the film.  Roman comes to apologize for misleading her, and they decide that while they love each other, they need to separate so they can focus on their individual careers. This was an odd graphic novel for a few reasons. For one, it really upends the status quo of Dazzler’s book, but happens in a format that a lot of regular readers might not have had easy access to. As well, it really portrays Hollywood poorly, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that Ali would have ended up with Roman in any fashion. Their relationship is totally unbelievable from the start. It was nice to see Springer return to the character for a bit though, and the colours on those early Marvel Graphic Novels were gorgeous (although I had to read this digitally, because finding copies of the OGN has become pretty difficult).
  • Issue thirty-five picks up right after the graphic novel.  Ali returns to her apartment and tries to call Storm in New York.  When she can’t find her, she decides to record her a message, which serves as a way of recapping the graphic novel (which is handy considering that this issue might have come out before it).  As she finishes, she is interrupted by her landlords, who are carrying a pipe and a baseball bat. The husband wants her gone, but the wife, having heard her story, decides to do the right thing, assuming they receive the rent, which is a couple of weeks late.  The next morning, Ali puts on her roller skates and goes job hunting. Everywhere she goes, she is recognized as a mutant and turned away, with varying degrees of politeness. One bartender tries to attack her with a crowbar. After a whole day of looking, Ali decides to try one last place, a nightclub called Femmes, which is women-only (but, even though there are roller derby girls, there is no hint of it being a lesbian establishment).  She is hired as a waitress, and meets a new friend named Barb, who is a little short and can’t stop talking about it. Ali is getting the hang of the job, and is enjoying the music of the band – Jan Jackson and the Steel Tuna (although, weirdly, Ali refers to her as Janet Jackson, but the woman is clearly white). Anyway, a roller derby team called the Racine Ramjets come in and kick some women away from the table they want. They are rude to Ali, going so far as pouring a drink over her head, not because she’s a mutant but because they are bullies.  Barb tries to take over the table, but things get even worse, as they mock her and assault her. Finally Ali steps in, and it leads to a brawl. Ali and Barb are some of the only women still standing at the end, and after Ali gives Barb some encouragement, she leaves.
  • At this point, Ali’s story moves into the Beauty and the Beast miniseries, which co-stars Hank McCoy.  It opens with Doctor Doom contemplating his artwork and learning that someone who claims to be his son is in California.  Hank McCoy arrives in LA and talks to himself about the anti-mutant hysteria that Dazzler has kicked up. He wanders around some of the sites, and sees that a theatre was vandalized for advertising a Dazzler performance.  Ali, meanwhile, is at a party where she meets a guy named Alexander Flynn, who recognizes her. They talk about how she’s been blacklisted, and he tells her about his connections with an underground theatre that would probably hire her.  The next day she auditions for it, and Hugo Longride, the boss, hires her right away, pushing her through signing a contract in a rush. She spends a weekend doing fabulous things with Flynn (and starts to notice that she is having a hard time keeping her light inside her), although at one point he pushes her into a fountain.  By the end of the week, she sees an article about her decadence in a newspaper. She goes to a party on a soundstage, which is attended by Beast, Wonder Man, and Rocker, the horse-faced guy who was also at the party where she met Flynn. Rocker talks to her about the mutant theatre, and this is the first she realizes what she’s signed up to work at.  Beast feels that Rocker is being rude and steps in to their conversation, and as the two men argue, Longride comes over to break it up. He insults McCoy by calling him a Beast, even though that is his superhero name, and Ali calms him down. Longride tells Ali to leave with him, but worried about her powers kicking up, she leaves. Longride has some guy follow her.  Ali wanders around the sound stage giving off more and more light, and wondering why she can’t control it. Hank talks to Wonder Man about how he feels like something is going on with Dazzler, and Simon tells him where Rocker lives. Hank goes there and gets into fight with him, while Ali walks along a beach giving off even more light. Some “beach bums” find Ali and put her in a cart, taking her somewhere, while Longride’s man watches.  Having subdued Rocker, Hank has him call Hugo to find out where Ali is, and he reports that she’s in a house on the beach. Hank rushes there, after threatening Rocker. He arrives at an old hotel, where a woman tells him that there are no young women there. A kid tries to cover the glow coming out from under a door, and Hank opens that door to find Ali lying on a bed glowing out of control. Hank promises to look after her. It’s worth pointing out that Nocenti is the first female to write Ali’s story, and based on this first issue, she didn’t do anything to elevate the character, at least at the beginning.
  • Hank sits over Ali as she struggles to recover her control of her power.  She talks about how the people at the Heartbreak Hotel, which is the name of the place she’s staying, are being nice to her.  She recaps the last issue as she apologizes to Hank for mistreating him, and he tries to soothe her worries. Later, she gets to know some of the other mutants staying there, such as Poltergeist, a young boy who affects the world around him when he is emotional.  Another young woman can change the colours of flowers. Hank comes to talk to Ali, and they stand around in the rain. Days go by (which is a little surprising), and they hang out a lot. When a street performer suggests they are together, Ali gets upset. Days later, they end up making out in a greenhouse, which causes Poltergeist’s poltergeist to act up.  In Latveria, Doctor Doom gets angry when an underling comes to tell him that his “son” has been seen in LA with Dazzler. Some troll-looking guy with a couple of bulldogs shows up to take Ali to work, and Hank starts to fight him. Alexander Flynn is also there, and Ali immediately decides to go with him; Hank suspects he is controlling her. Hank goes to the underground theatre where Ali is working – it’s set up like a futuristic gladiatorial ring.  Ali is upset to see that it looks like people are fighting on the stage, but Hugo Longride assures her it’s all acting and sends her out to sing. At first the audience likes her stuff, but soon start yelling for fighting to begin. Hugo and Lynn convince Ali to fight an opponent, but assure her it’s all acting. The guy, Horn starts fighting her for real, which causes Beast to spring into action (but never actually get to the ring). Ali loses control of her anger and vows to kill the guy.  At that, Longride sends in a bunch of different mutant gladiators, and there is a lot of chaos. Beast gets into the action as Ali confronts Longride. They all see Horn kill someone, at which point the crowd disperses. Ali is upset, and Hugo tries to explain it all away. Later, Ali sits in a dressing room and talks to Ivich, a green mutant gladiator. Ivich explains it away as being the only place she can be herself. As they talk, Rocker and Flynn enter the room. Rocker pours Ali a drink and slips some pills in it, and as Flynn tries to pump up Ali’s ego, Hank busts in, causing her to drop her drink.  Hank convinces her to leave, but her powers start to act up again (they’ve been under control the whole time she’s been in the arena) so she decides she has to stay. Hank gets angry and storms off, but later sits on the step of the hotel and cries over Ali.
  • Ali and Hank are on a strange looking beach together (there are dead trees on the shoreline, but this is supposed to be in LA).  They enjoy their time together, but when they walk through a crowd, people are very rude and bigoted. Ali says she’s heading back to the theatre, which upsets Hank.  As she leaves, Ali’s hand starts to glow again. At the theatre, Flynn ignores Hugo’s commands and sends Ali in to spar with the other gladiators. She fights Horns and impresses everyone.  Later, Ali and Ivich talk about how the theatre is like a family, and Ali is a little weirded out when Ivich admires Rocker’s new scars. Ali practices making shapes with her powers but gets upset when she creates Hank’s face.  Hank hangs out at the Heartbreak Hotel (doesn’t he have to get back to the Defenders?), and Kate encourages him to go after Ali. Rocker, Ivich, and Flynn grab Horns and make it clear that if he kills again, and violates their code, they will kill him.  Ali watches, and kind of approves. Later, Ali dresses in Native American drag for her performance, and Hank comes to see her. They argue again and Hank leaves, but Ali feels she has to stay. Hank explores the theatre and finds a guarded lab that he sneaks into.  He spies a flask with Ali’s name on it. At the Hotel, Poltergeist thinks about how he hates his powers but wants to help Dazzler. Link, the telekinetic street performer agrees to go with him. While the theatre’s performance begins, and a guard tells Hugo that Beast is sniffing around, he discovers that the chemicals he found are behind Ali’s lack of control.  He’s caught, and injected with something. Ali’s next performance has her dressed as a princess, and Hank shows up on the set, animalistic in nature. He attacks her and they have to fight. The crowd’s cheers affect her, and she becomes more violent, to the point where she prepares to kill Hank. He, apparently back in his right mind, reminds her of their love for each other.  Hugo and a bunch of Gladiators come over, and Hugo orders that both our heroes are killed. At this point, Flynn, in a flowing cape, challenges Hugo for leadership, and orders the Gladiators to choose between them. They kill Hugo, which leaves Ivich and Rocker unsettled. In Latveria, the same servant comes to talk to Doctor Doom about having lost the broadcast that was watching his supposed son.  Doom gets angry, says he wants all the computer’s information on Dazzler and Beast (although no one has talked to him about them both, only Ali’s name was mentioned before) and says he’s going to LA.
  • Doom arrives in the underground theatre and reveals through his need to monologue that Hugo Longride was a robot he built to keep an eye on things.  He then thinks about how to manipulate some chess pieces to arrange the downfall of the man claiming to be his son. Ali and Hank are hung upside down in a dungeon, and take the chance to talk and make out a bit.  Flynn, now wearing a Doom-esque suit complete with a very tall helmet comes in to gloat. He intends to use his Gladiator army, which he controls with his mutant power of hypnosis, to invade Latveria. It’s clear that Rocker isn’t all that happy about how things have turned.  Poltergeist and Link rush to help their friends, but are still on the beach. Poltergeist’s powers are causing a lot of problems. Flynn throws daggers at a map and rants; Ivich and Rocker watch this and think he’s nuts, but Ivich is still loyal to him. Doom watches them argue from the shadows.  Rocker frees Ali and Hank (without their knowing it). Our heroes rush to the arena, where they find Flynn and all his Gladiators waiting for them. The Gladiators, of which there are way more than we’ve seen before, circle them. Poltergeist and Link arrive at the film lot where the arena is hidden, and break in.  Our heroes fight a lot of Gladiators. Rocker joins them, protecting Ali from being attacked from behind. Ali ends up fighting Ivich, and Rocker tries to get her to switch sides. Doom watches from the seating area. Link and Poltergeist arrive and begin to turn things in their friends’ favour. Flynn gets angry and grabs Poltergeist, threatening to kill him.  Link uses his powers like Darth Vader, lifting and choking Flynn telekinetically, but Ali convinces him not to kill. Ali, and Hank beat on Flynn a bit, and then Ali takes him down. Doctor Doom shows himself, puts Flynn down, and walks away. Max Rocker decides to take over the theatre, and the Gladiators join him. Ali and Hank walk away. Later, at the hotel, they talk about how the world isn’t fair for them, and Ali suggests that they were both trying to hard to create romance between them.  Weirdly, in the middle of this conversation, we see that Link and Poltergeist are leaving together to travel. Ali breaks up with Hank, thinking that it’s better if they face the world’s problems on their own.
  • While Beauty and the Beast were running, so was the Dazzler title, which meant at least one fill-in issue.  This is the second time Ali’s story was written by a woman, Linda Grant, who was an editor with a few writing credits under her belt.  The story starts with a woman getting ready to sing at a club, when she is threatened by the sudden appearance of Tatterdemalion, a raggedy villain.  Ali applies for a singing job at the same club (their last two singers have quit suddenly on them), and even though the accompanist is rude to her, and the manager recognizes her, gets the slot, albeit under an assumed name.  She gets picked up by Janet (after realizing that the accompanist is an older film star, Julia Walker, whose movies Ali used to watch), and as they head home in her convertible, Tatterdemalion comes out of a manhole cover and melts Janet’s rear tires, causing the car to crash.  Tatterdemalion knocks Ali out with his chloroform hat and takes her into the sewers where he melts her sleeve and threatens her to stay away from the theatre (he thinks that the three singers are all the same woman). Ali runs, using her powers to blind him, and manages to escape.  When Ali goes to buy a dress for her performance, she runs into Julia Walker and they go for coffee. Julia tells her about how when her acting/dancing partner Michael Wyatt and her split, her career fizzled out. His plans to run a Vegas casino also fizzled, and she hasn’t seen him in years.  At the club that night, during Ali’s set, Tatterdemalion drops out of the ceiling and starts trashing the place with the help of his specially weighted scarf (seriously). While on his rampage, Julia asks him to stop what he’s doing, and this rattles him; he takes off. Ali chases him into an alley and starts to fight him, eventually knocking him out.  She takes him to see Julia, who recognizes him as Michael. He vaguely explains why he’s been Phantom of the Opera-ing her, and they reconcile. Later, Ali chats with Janet. I have no idea why this Tatterdemalion is not the same one that we’ve seen in other comics, and there is no explanation as to why he can melt things with his gloves.
  • Issue thirty-seven, another fill-in issue, is probably the absolute lowest point this series ever fell to, as it’s a pretty terrible comic written by a writer (Bob DeNatale) whose only other work appears to be a couple of Marvel Comics Presents stories and a part of a Spider-Man Annual, and drawn by Tom Morgan, who actually started out a much better artist than he became in the 90s (I’ll never forget his Sasquatch from when he made me hate Alpha Flight).  Ali is wandering around in the woods in the rain somewhere (it doesn’t look like LA) looking for a friend Diana’s estate. Some guy finds her and takes her inside, where she learns that her friend that just called her to come visit is dead. Her father is meeting with some guys, and takes her aside to warn her that the guys are dangerous and she has to leave. Basically, the dad and Diana got involved with Revenge Inc. because they needed money, and that somehow led to Diana getting hooked up to some computers.  She’s not dead, but the Revenge guys think that, and they end up killing the dad for something. There are some holographic solid light samurais that were supposed to be part of a video game, that stalk around the estate in an elaborate way for Diana to commit suicide. Ali escapes as the estate blows up, and is with one of the Revenge guys. When Ali blacks out, he decides to leave her lying unconscious rather than kill her. I don’t know, I found myself skimming this one because it wasn’t very good, but it also wasn’t bad in an amusing way.  It was just bad.
  • Between issues thirty-seven and thirty-eight, Ali started appearing in New Mutants for a few issues.  Those issues had her singing backup for Lila Cheney, and then helping the New Mutants try to recover their friends from the Gladiators, who were under the control of the Shadow King through his possession of Karma.  These were great issues, with incredible Bill Sienkiewicz art. They can be read about here.  
  • Issue thirty-eight takes Ali in a whole new direction, with the new, incredible creative team of Archie Goodwin, Paul Chadwick (pre-Concrete days), and Jackson Guice.  It looks great and stands up better than anything else in this series. The book opens with a large dog or wolf scaring the patrons of a bar in San Francisco into running away, which leads one guy into the clutches of OZ Chase, a bounty hunter.  As he drives the guy to LA in his truck, we learn that the dog’s name is Cerberus, that it likes to eat cigars, and that OZ’s handler has a job for him in San Diego. From there, we cut to San Diego where the X-Man Colossus is enjoying the beach.  Wolverine comes to him to remind him that they are there to hunt someone. Ali is working as a lounge singer at a hotel, and her new boss bothers her for not spending more time with the customers, and puts her down for being a mutant, leading to a physical confrontation with him, which Wolverine, in full costume, applauds before attacking Ali.  She runs, but it’s right into Colossus, who ends up being tripped into a pool, while a shadowy figure watches the whole thing. Through a flashback, we learn that Ali had gone to the Xavier School to ask for more training in the use of her powers, something that Logan opposed from the start, because he sees her as putting mutants in danger by being such a public figure (which doesn’t really track with his usual portrayal).  Rogue and Nightcrawler stood up for her (without Rogue acknowledging that they used to be enemies), and the team worked with her in the Danger Room, where she wore a weird golden suit of armor. Logan shredded it to prove his point. Later, Charles Xavier declared her training adequate, and she turned down his offer to join the team, but also mentioned that Logan still didn’t think she was up to it. She challenged him to come and test her at some point.  That brings us back to San Diego, where Colossus and Wolverine bust into her hotel room. She emerges in her new blue outfit, which apparently helps her focus her powers better, and dazzles them so she can get away. They give chase again, while that shadowy figure still watches, and she leads them to a condemned pier (that still has a ship moored to it for some reason). Ali is able to split a massive piling in half when Colossus throws it at her, and she ends up dumping him into the ocean a couple of times, and blinding him.  Logan comes at her straight, and she blasts him with light, and then uses her laser to split his shirt, demonstrating her control by not cutting him. He comes at her again, but out of the blue, is stopped by a blast from Cyclops, the guy that was watching from the shadows. He’d come down from Alaska to give Ali tips, and decided that she’d done well enough. As they leave, Logan still talks about how she’s not ready. In LA, OZ sees his handler and learns that he’s going after Dazzler (although it’s not clear why she’s wanted).  When he leaves, the guy he was talking to starts to melt or fall apart, although we can only see his hands.
  • In some lab in Arizona, a guy named Doctor Piper completes some sort of experiment with a weapon; through his discussion with a security guard we learn that he hates mutants, especially after his daughter was hurt in a “demonstration” in LA – a reference to the Dazzler Graphic Novel when she showed off her powers.  OZ Chase meets with a theatrical agent as he tries to track down Ali, revealing that she’s wanted for bailjumping in LA (not sure what the refers to). The guy has seen Ali, and gave her a list of places where she might have been able to get a singing gig. Chase heads out for Arizona, thinking that’s where she’s probably gone.  There’s been an accident on the side of a cliff somewhere, and a van with three children in it is perched precariously on a ledge. Ali just happens to be in a bus that’s stopped by the accident, and figures she can help by crawling through a storm drain, and then carving a pathway into the side of the cliff with her laser. She has the kids, holding a rope, come towards her, and manages to save them just as the car fall.  Ali slips away, and the kids’ father changes his minds about mutants. Dr. Piper is also there, watching the scene. He heads home, where we learn that his daughter has been in a fugue state caused by Dazzler’s light show. Piper puts on a hazmat suit with glowing gloves and promises revenge. At some country bar in the middle of nowhere, Ali has a good performance. Chase is about to catch her after the show, but first calls in to the office that hired him to make sure things haven’t changed in Ali’s case.  Some guy, other than the one we saw melt, talks to him, reminding him that he has accepted money already. As he hangs up the phone, Piper attacks the phone booth, stating that he’s already disabled all other phones. He starts to fight with Ali, who can’t blind him because his helmet has “polaroid lenses”. Piper’s daughter and her caretaker arrive on the scene. Ali starts to climb to the roof of the honkytonk to protect everyone else. Cerberus doesn’t try to free Chase from the mangled phone booth, but instead steals his cigars.  The fight continues as Ali starts to climb the bar’s big sign. It collapses under Piper’s weight, and Ali tries to save him, knocking his helmet off in the process. He still tries to kill her, so she dazzles him, ending things. Piper’s daughter is somehow fine now, but he is now just repeating the words “the light” over and over. Ali returns to her motel room, to find Chase waiting for her. He arrests her and tells her that he is to now drive her to Colorado (why not LA?) and that he’s disabled his pickup’s radio.
  • Issue forty is a Secret Wars II tie-in, and takes place after the Beyonder hung out with Ali for a bit, because Jim Shooter really couldn’t leave her alone for a while there.  Three punks wearing thin slat sunglasses ride motorcycles along a highway. The guy who has been manipulating things behind the scenes is driving a truck along another highway, and is speaking to someone on the CB radio.  We learn that his name is Dust, and that he’s arranged for these motorcycle punks, called the Outriders, to get Ali from OZ Chase and bring her to him. We also learn that Dust moves from body to body (he’s sitting next to a skeleton), and that the person he’s talking to, Silence, finds it painful to talk.  OZ and Cerberus are parked on the side of the highway. They don’t know where Ali went (having disappeared with the Beyonder), or why their truck won’t work. They start walking to look for a tow. The Beyonder takes Ali to a shopping mall where he wants her to sing, but she talks about the importance of gaining satisfaction from doing things for yourself.  He takes her back to OZ’s truck and they say goodbye to each other. OZ finds a small town, and is observed by one of the Outriders. He has to wait for a tow truck so he sits in a diner for a bit. The Outriders show up looking for Ali and a brawl starts. When Chase pulls his shotgun, they demonstrate telekinetic abilities, throw him out the front window, and start beating on him.  Ali arrives in his truck and starts blasting them. While OZ and Ali talk for a bit, the Outriders recover and attack again, wrecking the diner and ripping open a water main. Things keep escalating, as they fight with ever-growing power. The Outriders get Ali down, but then the Beyonder coalesces out of some energy that leaves her chest. The fight continues, with Ali blowing up a truck.  The Beyonder explains that he is limiting his abilities to make the fight more satisfying. The fight continues, with a gas station exploding. The Outriders combine into a weird punk Kirby-esque motorcycle laser thing that looks like it belongs in a Benjamin Marra comic, at which point Ali decides to walk away from the fight. She’s correctly figured out that the Beyonder is prolonging the fight, and calls him out for that.  She suggests that he looks for better ways to feel satisfied. The townsfolk gather, ready to confront the hero and the “one from beyond”, but OZ stops them all. The Beyonder restores things to normal, the Outriders get away, and the Beyonder explains that Ali’s powers were actually augmenting the abilities the Outriders possess before he got into the mix.
  • Issue forty-one might be one of the wordiest comics I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a lot of Kevin Smith’s comics) as Goodwin just plows through way too much exposition.  Also, this is the issue where Ali’s hair turns permanently from a dirty blonde to a blonde blonde, which has continued to this day (when she’s not dying it in A-Force). Another thought – the cover makes it look like she and OZ are fighting Two-Face.  The issue starts with Dust talking to Stomper, one of the Outriders, at Camp Silence, the cult-like compound he operates, and explaining their shared history, which he probably already knows. The Outriders were at Ali’s power demonstration in the graphic novel, and it seems to have woken new powers in them.  We also learn that Dust and his wife, Silence were scientists working on some kind of enhancement drug, when their project was canceled a quarter century before. They had tested their drug on themselves, and found that it gave them powers, but that they were also dying. They figured out how to track down the offspring of their other test subjects, because the drug collected in the children or something, but they weren’t able to activate it without killing their patients.  Silence used her psychic abilities to gather them all anyway, and then they found out that the Outriders had powers (because of course three friends who went to a mutant PR thing also all have the drug in their system), and now Dust (who has to jump bodies to stay alive) is bringing Ali to him so he can activate everyone. Dust inhabits Stomper’s body, and then chats with Silence. Ali, meanwhile, is fighting a bunch of bikers, trying to find out information about the Outriders, while OZ is pretending to capture her again as a way to gain the bikers’ trust.  They learn that the Outriders are a Camp Silence, but OZ wants to hand Ali over to his employers first so he can protect his bounty hunter rep. They go to the hotel where he is supposed to deliver her. Silence does some thing at the Camp where she drains some psi-force from all her followers, and she’s powerful enough to catch Rachel Summers’s attention in New York. Also there’s some guy in prison who obsesses over Ali. Ali starts to argue with OZ and is surprised to see that her dad is there – he explains that the charges against Ali and the reasons for OZ detaining her were all fake.  They leave together, and Ali tells him that she wants to find Camp Silence. OZ gets suspicious, and finds Stomper’s dead body in the hotel. Ali reveals that she knows it’s not really her father with her, and so Dust reveals himself. OZ tries to call the Avengers to help Ali and is about to abandon her when his dog makes him change his mind. Ali fights Dust a bit, and blasts his driver, who develops the power to lift massive amounts of rock (I guess he doesn’t know that she once fought Terrax, who has the same power but is scarier). She uses her laser to break up the rock and dump it on the guy.  When confronting Dust, she decides to blast all her light away from him instead of powering him up more, even though she knows this means that her father’s body will burn up more. Dust tries to transfer into Ali’s body, but then OZ shows up and shoots him. As he is dying, Dust tells Ali that her mother is at Camp Silence. Ali rushes off, leaving OZ behind (although up to this point she hasn’t known where the camp is). Silence figures out that Dust is dead, but talks to herself about having a weapon that will make Ali do her bidding.
  • Arthur Allan Smith, the guy we saw in jail obsessing over Ali last issue, is sitting in a police station being interviewed by a detective in front of a journalist.  He’s talking about having snuck out of prison and having killed the Dazzler. Backing up a touch, the Beast breaks into Camp Silence, which looks to have been emptied out.  OZ and Cerberus join him, and they are attacked by Chunk and Mama, the last two Outriders, who were hiding in the cellar. Dazzler is wrapped in silence. It seems that Silence moved her whole cult of nascent powered individuals to a backup facility they have in Tulsa, and that she has been using her power to do something to Dazzler.  Beast and OZ take out the Outriders, and then ask where Dazzler’s been taken. Ali is taken to see her mother, who has been injected with the same drugs that Silence and Dust tested on themselves, as a way of coercing Ali to do her bidding. The other followers have been gaining more and more power as Ali shines her light on them, making it harder for her to resist.  One of them blasts her when she tries to fight back, and then Silence talks a lot. Ali is taken into a theatre where she bathes the audience in her light. We learn that Smith is in the audience, having walked out of prison to follow Silence’s messages, but not as blindly as everyone else, perhaps because of his obsessive love of Ali. He has a gun tucked into the front of his pants, but no one anywhere seems to notice it.  Ali collapses under the strain of using her powers this way. Hank and OZ drive to rescue Ali and talk about how they feel about her. Ali is plunged into Silence’s silence again. There’s a lot of needless exposition as Silence speaks to some of her followers, and as Smith thinks about how he can save Ali, who he annoyingly calls “The Lady”. When Ali is brought back on stage, she focuses all her energy on her mother, curing her of the illness that Silence also needs to be cured of, which causes Silence to order everyone to rush Ali.  Chase drives his truck into the side of the building, allowing Beast to slip in. There’s a lot of mayhem, and Ali, tired and kind of worn out, uses her power in a completely different way. Instead of transducing sound into light, she drains all the absorbed sound in her body, sending it as sound into Silence, who is hurt by sound. She immediately ages to her proper age, and falls dead. One of Silence’s guards grabs Ali’s mother, and we learn that Dust is still alive, having taken over the body of the guy he was with last issue. Now he’s in the guard, and is threatening to take over Barbara.  Ali pushes him off, and dazzles Dust. There’s some more chaos, during which Smith opens fire, and it looks like he’s shot Dazzler to death. The building starts to collapse, as OZ yells to Hank and starts to take Barbara out of the place. Back in the police station, Smith finishes telling his story of how he saved Ali by killing her. On the last page, Smith walks out of the station to find Ali, OZ, Hank, and Cerberus waiting for him. He explains that he shot Dust but used his mental powers to make it look like Ali was dead so the world would stop hounding her. He heads back into the prison, because he doesn’t like being free.  Ali says goodbye to Chase and her mother. She and Hank walk away, talking about how Ali can make a new start in life, and he kind of suggests she join X-Factor, which I’ll talk about. That’s the end of this series.

I completely forgot that Dazzler was originally going to be the lone female member of X-Factor before plans were made to bring Jean Grey back.  I don’t know how it would have made sense to have a world-famous singer join a team that was, at the beginning, supposed to be passing for human.

Anyway, the rest of the Dazzler’s series from where I left off in the last column was generally pretty terrible.  The Graphic Novel seems to have been an attempt to elevate the character to new heights, and to give writers a forum to explore anti-mutant sentiment, perhaps in all its metaphoric glory, but everything fell flat pretty quickly.  Moving Ali’s story into the Beauty and the Beast miniseries, while continuing to run some ineffective fill-in issues in her own title, was probably a mistake. Having Ali, as a newly outed and controversial figure hide out in an underground coliseum felt as forced as her relationship with Hank McCoy (which, I think, was never mentioned again).  

I remember the Goodwin/Chadwick issues being a lot better than they actually are.  Ali is “captured” by OZ Chase for skipping bail, but never talks about the fact that there are no charges against her that she knows of.  From there, as they are manipulated by Dust in a convoluted way, they become incredibly close friends in a way that feels as forced as Ali’s relationship with Hank.  

Also, the exposition!  Those last couple of issues were just so wordy that I found myself skipping over large blocks of text.  Maybe Goodwin had fewer issues than he expected to finish the story, since the book did get cancelled, but still, it was painful.

As well, I can understand why Ali got rid of the disco suit, but her new Charles Xavier-aided superhero outfit is pretty generic.  For months, we never saw Ali suit up in any way, and then as soon as Chadwick came on board, it’s just about the only thing she wore.  

Ali’s character also suffered over the course of these comics.  We lost the strong woman who was working so hard to be independently successful, and instead watched her fall for Roman Nekobah’s spell of fame and fortune.  From there, we saw her more or less accept everything that Michael Flynn offered her, leading her into the Gladiators.  After that, it was not far from her basically just accepting that a bounty hunter was going to deliver her to Colorado on charges that she skipped bail in LA.  Ali stopped questioning her life, and really just allowed the plot to take her where her writers needed her to go.  It was unfortunate, because Marvel needed more strong female leads at the time (Spider-Woman and She-Hulk’s books both got canceled long before Ali’s did, and I’m pretty sure she was the last woman standing in 1986 when this title got the chop).

From these issues, Ali next joined the X-Men, and was used very well during the Outback Era.  Since then, I feel like the character has been under-utilized or badly mishandled. I was never a big fan of her relationship with Longshot, as after Claremont’s time with them, it just seemed to hold her back as a character.  The worst offender, of course, is Brian Michael Bendis, who had her turned into a source of MGH for Mystique, but also a SHIELD agent, and a very angry goth. I’m hoping that Matthew Rosenberg can get her back on track in her current Astonishing X-Men appearances.

At the end of it all, I’d say that this book was at its best when under the control of Danny Fingeroth and Frank Springer.  That’s the only time she had a consistent supporting cast, and underwent a prolonged arc of character development, as she searched for her mother, dealt with her relationship with her father, and tried to get her recording career underway.  All of these aspects of her character were jettisoned once she came to LA, and it caused her to lose what made her connect with her audience.

Now that I’m done with this series, which I thought would be a lot more self-aware,I want to look into something that took its knowledge of itself to whole new levels, and brought the high concept of “meta” to comics.

If you’d like to see the archives of all of my retro review columns, click here.

If you’d like to read these stories, they’ve all been collected here:

Essential Dazzler, Vol. 2 (Marvel Essentials)

 

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